There was no joyous roar from Supanida Katethong. As the bird went long, the Thai sixth seed just stood there, smiled at her coach sitting courtside and raised her hands to signal what quite probably is the biggest win of her career.
The world No. 33 had just caused the upset of India Open by beating top seed and former world champion PV Sindhu 21-14, 13-21, 21-10 in just under an hour – in the Indian’s backyard – to progress to her maiden BWF World Tour tournament final.
The two had faced each other once earlier at the Indonesia Masters in November 2021 when the Indian had emerged the winner in straight games. But Saturday was different.
“Last time my smashes were hitting the lines and going into the corners. This time I was (trying to) hit the lines and corners but it was going out,” world No. 7 Sindhu, who was looking to regain the $400,000 title she had won in 2017, said. “I gave her chances to attack mid-court. That I think went wrong. Towards the end I gave her more chances to attack and my tosses and clears were going out. Today just wasn’t my day and she played well.”
With a depleted field, the two-time Olympic medallist was looking to win her first title since clinching the 2019 World Championship but the Thai had other plans. The southpaw, unexpectedly, raced away to clinch the first game before Sindhu fought back to draw level. But errors from Sindhu and quick responses, net attack and back-court play saw Katethong surge to 10 match points and eventual victory.
“I should have controlled the shuttle more. At 5-all (in the third game) I gave her the lead. I should have taken 2-3 points but she continued with the lead. I played her earlier in Bali. She is left-handed and really good. Her strokes are really very deceptive. I have to go and work on my mistakes,” said Sindhu, who has a history of struggling against southpaws.
Katethong will face compatriot and second seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan, who doused a spirited fight from Aakarshi Kashyap 26-24, 21-9 in 52 minutes in the other semi-final, on Sunday.
Sen to face world champion Loh in final
Meanwhile, Lakshya Sen continued his sensational run to reach his first ever Super 500 final when he came from behind to defeat Malaysian Tze Yong Ng 19-21, 21-16, 21-12 in an hour and seven minutes. He thereby became only the second Indian man to reach the final of his home tournament after Kidambi Srikanth (2015 and 2019), who won in 2015. He also became the second Indian, again after Srikanth, to reach a Super 500 final. “The first game was really fast and he managed to win some close points at the end to win it. I stuck to my game plan in the next two games and it worked well for me. It’s a good feeling to play my first Super 500 final at my home,” Sen said.
Sen, who clinched a bronze at the World Championships in December, will face reigning world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in Sunday’s summit clash. The 20-year-old from Almora has an impressive 2-2 record against Loh.
Shetty-Rankireddy also in final
Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy booked their second Super 500 level final by registering a convincing 21-10, 21-18 victory over French eighth seeds Fabien Delrue and William Villeger. They will now face top seeds and three-time world champions Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan in a blockbuster final with the Indonesians having a 3-1 record. “They may not be the quickest pair on court but are the smartest. They like to keep the rallies short and we have to counter their game plan,” said Shetty.
Withdrawals – the one thing that has been consistent in this tournament – continued even on the penultimate day. Russian Rodion Alimov tested positive for Covid-19 and had to pull out of his mixed doubles semi-final on Saturday. The second-seeded Alimov and Alina Davletova gave a walkover to Singaporeans Hee Yong Kai Terry and Tan Wei Han.
Later, Canadian Brian Yang also withdrew from the men’s singles semi-final after complaining of sore throat and headache, handing a walkover to Loh.